Thursday, January 31, 2019

Books: On The New England Patriots

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

The New England Patriots are back in the Super Bowl, seeking their sixth championship with Head Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady at the helm. They have reached the Super Bowl a record nine times in 18 years.

A couple of recent books on the pair include Belichick: The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All Time by Ian O'Connor, and Belichick And Brady: Two Men, the Patriots, and How They Revolutionized Football by Michael Holley.

Belichick: The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All Time
By Ian O'Connor
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; hardcover, $28.00

Bill Belichick is arguably the most compelling figure, as he has coached the New England Patriots for nearly two decades, and teamed up with quarterback Tom Brady for a record five Super Bowl championships.
To some in New York, Belichick is still viewed with derision for leaving the Jets one day after he was named the head coach when Bill Parcells resigned.
To others, he is viewed as the defensive genius who partnered with Parcells to win two Super Bowl championships with the Giants.
One thing is certain with Belichick: everyone has an opinion on the stern, tight-lipped, hoodie-wearing leader of the Patriots.
Renowned sportswriter and New York Times best-selling author Ian O'Connor has written the definitive biography of the NFL's most successful, enigmatic, and coach in his new book,Belichick: The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All Time.
In this revealing and robust biography, O'Connor looks at Belichick's full life in football, from watching college games as a kid with his father, a Naval Academy scout, to his successful time with the Giants, to his stint as a head coach with the Cleveland Browns, to joining Parcells with the Jets and his infamous departure, and his time with the Patriots.
There are many sides to this complex man, who has earned a place with coaching legends like Vince Lombardi, George Halas, and Paul Brown in the annals of NFL history. Belichick has shaped the people he has met and worked with in ways perhaps even he himself doesn't know.
There is much more to the man than just being the hooded genius of New England, and that is revealed in the 350 people interviewed. From the hidden tensions and deep layers of his relationship with Brady to his sometimes tense dealings with team owner Robert Kraft to his ability to earn the unmitigated respect of his players, if not their affection, this is the full human portrait of Belichick.
Interestingly, stories of Belichick's acts of kindness towards friends, assistants, and former teammates that represent a softer side of him are kept hidden from public view.
"While with the Giants, Belichick visited the Sing Sing Correctional Facility, in Ossining, New York, and spent a couple of hours talking football with dozens of inmates," writes O'Conor. "In order to better understand the urban environments that produced many of his players, Belichick also rode along with Drug Enforcement Administration agents in impoverished pockets of New Jersey. In Cleveland, Bill and Debby funded a financially strapped homeless shelter for women and children, and the coach lent his time to Jim Brown, whose Amer-I-Can Program provided life skills to at-risk youths. Belichick had visited prison inmates with Brown and met with reformed gang members in Brown's homes and in hotel rooms.
"The coach was beyond generous with his assistants, too, giving them his TV and radio money and greeting low-level staffers with hundred-dollar handshakes. 'There were always two sides to Bill Belichick,' said one of his Cleveland scouts. 'He was an emperor who can be incredibly aloof, condescending, and arrogant, which was always in there. But fundamentally, deep down inside, there's a good guy who was raised by good parents.
"That person was alive and well in Foxborough, but living in the shadows by choice. Belichick's support of a young staffer, Mark Jackson, after Jackson's father died on Christmas Day of 2000 was something that the future athletic director of Villanova would never forget. In March 2002, after Williams College coach and future College Football Hall of Famer Dick Farley dropped him a congratulatory note on beating the Rams in the Super Bowl, Belichick replied with a handwritten letter that read, in part, 'Dick - my goal in coaching is to have your record! Congratulations on your continued success.' A couple of years later, after cutting Farley's son, Scott, Belichick offered to write Scott a letter of recommendation if he wanted to pursue a job in the industry."
Through it all, Belichick has created a notorious football dynasty. That is one of the words that has characterized his time in New England, as they have endured many scandals that have earned the suffix "-gate" to show its gravity.
"Deflategate" involved allegations that the Patriots lowered the air pressure, basically deflated, the footballs used in the 2014 AFC Championship Game. There is new material here, including the fact that Belichick initially had "serious doubts" about Brady's claim of innocence, and that Brady's camp was livid that Belichick dropped the case in his lap. Brady fought the NFL for over a year until he ultimately accepted a four-game suspension at the start of the 2016 season.
"Spygate" concerned the Patriots' filming the opposing teams' practices to get their defensive signals, including before Super Bowl XXXVI against the Rams, Belichick and Brady's first trip there as a tandem. This scheme was exposed in 2007 by then-Jets Head Coach Eric Mangini, a former Patriots assistant. There is new material on this, including the emergence of an FBI agent and two New Jersey state troopers who refereed a Giants Stadium dispute between the Patriots and Jets as the teams fought over control of the confiscated camera and tape that started this scandal.
O'Connor talked to Patriots players about how Belichick succeeded in his attempt to connect with them, and conversely, with Cleveland players about how he failed miserably in his attempts to connect with them.
There is a new look at Belichick's relationship with Nick Saban when they coached together in Cleveland, where Pro Bowl defensive end Rob Burnett said that Saban, the defensive coordinator, "was so pissed with Bill" over the head coach's conservative philosophy.
There are never-before told stories from Belichick's time at Wesleyan University from players and coaches who witness the most painful day of Bill's football life, one so violent he left the sport for more than a year.
During World War II, Belichick's fathe, Steve, was the only white man who didn't walk out of the Officers' club on Okinawa when Sam Barnes, one of the Navy's finest black officers, walked in. They became friends, and Barnes' daughter likened their relationship to that of Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo of the Chicago Bears, which was depicted in the film "Brian's Song."
O'Connor also reveals one of the bigger questions in Belichick's career, why he never returned to coach the Giants. Longtime Giants GM George Young was no fan of Belichick, and Giants personnel man Chris Mara recalls, "I was there when (Young) said it. He said, 'He'll never become the Giants' head coach."

Belichick And Brady: Two Men, the Patriots, and How They Revolutionized Football - Championship Edition
By Michael Holley
Hachette Books

The New England Patriots have become the gold standard in terms of how a sports organization should operate, and they have the hardware to prove it.
Their head coach, Bill Belichick, and quarterback, Tom Brady, have combined to win five Super Bowls, the record for a coach-quarterback duo.
The Patriots captured their fifth championship this past February, with a stirring comeback from 28-3 down against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI.
That win prompted a new "Championship Edition" of Michael Holley's work, Belichick and Brady.
Holley was a Boston Globe sportswriter for ten years and co-hosts Dale and Holley on Boston sports radio station WEEI. He has made himself into an authority on the Patriots, with such books as Patriot Reign from 2004, which looked at what makes the Patriots organization tick and win, and In War Room from 2011, which explored the draft and personnel strategy that make the Patriots a consistent winner, unlike the Giants, for example.
This work explores the history of this historic partnership, from the "Tuck rule" game, in which the Patriots beat the Oakland Raiders in Belichick and Brady's first playoff game, through all the close Super Bowl wins, to "Spygate," to the nearly perfect season in 2007, to their personal lives, and to all the other stalwarts. like owner Robert Kraft and players such as Tedy Bruschi and Rob Gronkowski, that made these teams a success.
Holley writes of the Patriots' comeback in Super Bowl LI, specifically Julian Edelman's big catch, "Brady looked over the middle of the field and tried to guide a throw in to Edelman. Alford, the menace cornerback from the second quarter, tipped the ball in the air and redirected it. Edelman has drawn a crowd now, three defenders in Falcons red, all swarming toward the football. The receiver kept his eye on the ball, though; as he fell to the ground he tipped the ball and kept it an inch above the turf and into his hands.
"The Falcons waved wildly that the pass was incomplete, and pointed to the giant video board in the stadium for confirmation. Edleman calmly told his teammates that he caught it. (Falcons coach Dan) Quinn, trying everything he could to slow the march toward the end zone, threw a coach's challenge flag to dispute the ruling of a completed catch. He lost the challenge, and he and everyone associated with Atlanta began to understand that it wasn't the only thing that would be lost in the fourth quarter. The official gain was twenty-three yards. Twenty more yards came on the next play, Brady to (Danny) Amendola, and now two more minutes remained in the game.
"Shifting dynamics are difficult to pinpoint. The Patriots were still twenty yards away from the Atlanta end zone, still trailing by eight points. But it was the catch by Edelman, the squandered lead b the Falcons' defense, the coaching mistakes, the mental errors, all rolled into this moment. It was humiliating for Atlanta. No one ever felt shame for losing a Super Bowl; the shame was there for those who gave them away. It was going to happen, and the Falcons had missed their window to do anything about it...
"There had never been a Super Bowl like this, with the wipeout of such a large lead. There had never been overtime in the fifty-year history of the game. For that matter, there had never been a team like the Patriots, revered and reviled nationally, a team that couldn't be held under the commissioner's legislative thumb.
"Overtime, unofficially, was won when of the Patriots' captains, Matthew Slater, called heads on the coin toss. The flip of the coin indeed came up heads, and the Patriots received the ball and never gave it back. They went down the field without resistance and sent the stadium and nation into a frenzy when (James) White, once again, took a toss and powered into the end zone for the winning score."
Belichick and Brady not only have the most Super Bowl wins for a coach-quarterback combo, but they also have the most victories overall.
Brady has played for Belichick his entire career, and has won 77 percent of his games, more than other legendary quarterbacks such as Roger Staubach (74%), Joe Montana (71%), and Peyton Manning (70%).
Questions explored in this book include: How did this happen? How have they been able to sustain a winning record, and how long will they be able to continue to do this? What were some of the challenges that threatened the staying power of this historic partnership?
It is instructive to read this work to remind yourself how bad a spot the Patriots were in when they lured Belichick from the Jets in 2000.
Holley writes, "They were millions of dollars over the projected salary cap. They finished last in their division, five games worse than the Indianapolis Colts and star quarterback Peyton Manning. They were awarded extra draft picks from the New York Jets, as compensation for former coach Bill Parcells going there, but even that felt like a wasted opportunity. They used the picks because they had them, but the selections were random and lacked vision. Most of the kids they drafted couldn't play, and a couple of young veterans that they liked, Tedy Bruschi, twenty-six, and Troy Brown, twenty-eight, were free agents. There wasn't a lot for a new coach to look forward to.
"(Patriots owner Robert) Kraft would deal with that later. Three days into the twenty-first century, when the owner fired coach Pete Carroll, he gave a brief statement that looked and sounded like dozens of others delivered by some of his disillusioned colleagues.
"'This is a business of accountability and two years ago we won the division,' he said that day. 'Last year we barely made the play-offs and this year we were 8-8. We need a momentum change.'
"The change happened three weeks later when Kraft hired Bill Belichick, who had spent the previous four seasons as an assistant coach to Parcells. It was a momentum change for Belichick, too, who had worked for Parcells a total of twelve seasons. That was exactly half of his NFL existence. He had his own ideas and personality, but they were often muted by the policy and personality of Parcells. But Kraft's move, which required the Patriots to relinquish their first-round draft pick in 2000, wasn't just about momentum. It was the beginning of a partnership that forever changed the Patriots, New England, and all of football. It would lead to coverage, both fawning and withering, unlike anything in the history of professional sports. No, it wasn't a momentum change. It was a generational shift."
Belichick and Brady is a must-have for football fans, Patriots supporters, and anyone that wants to read about two of the greats.

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